I remember the feelings that I experienced as I began my pastoral ministry, especially around the role of preaching. I knew that I had to work hard at writing the message and presenting it in a clear way. At the same time, I was very aware that I needed to trust in God through the whole process. I heavily rely on prayer right up to and including the time I’m preaching my message. Where things became awkward was after the service when I was greeting people at the back. Some people would compliment me with regard to the sermon and I had no idea how to respond. What I had seen modelled for me was that pastors should deflect such compliments. Receiving a compliment for a good sermon is robbing the glory from God.
But then something happened to me while I was preaching. I was referencing this passage:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)
I was talking about the power of words and the importance of saying things that build people up rather than tear them down. While preaching, my mind went to how I had been trying to refuse compliments. This left me with three options:
- Paul wants us to offer edifying words but not receive them.
- Pastors are exempt from what Paul is talking about.
- I was wrong.
It did not take much reflect to discover the answer. It is okay for a pastor to receive a compliment for a sermon or something else. I give a simple “Thank you” and receive it as it is offered. I do not believe God is threatened by a pastor giving a good sermon. God is bigger than that.
I have heard pastors attempt to respond to these compliments with: “That was all the Lord.” The best comeback I have heard is to say to the pastor: “If it was all the Lord, the sermon would have been way better than that.”
So pastors, if someone says something nice to you, be consistent with what you teach and receive the compliment. It will actually make you a better preacher.